I’ve been doing the Big Clean at my house. The excuse is that I have house guests coming at the end of next week. The reality is that I’m just sick to the point of low-boiling anger of all the clutter and mess. I like to be able to put my hands on the DVD I want to watch on a given night, or find my baby name book. Order is, in some ways, as comforting as it is illusory. This is not to say, though, that I’m a firm believer in the “everything in its place” theory of life: after all, if you can never leave a magazine on the dining room table or the blanket unfolded on the couch because you staggered upstairs at 1am after falling asleep in front of the TV because you were just going to “rest your eyes during the commercials” you aren’t really living in a home, you’re living in a copy of Martha Stewart Living or the Pottery Barn catalogue.
Titled “AMENDMENTS TO YOUR AGREEMENT” (weird capitalization, bolding, and misplaced commas all theirs) this brochure, in Arial 8pt if you please, states the following about the “DEFAULT RATE” :
The “Default Rate” section below replaces any provisions in your agreement or any subsequent amendments regarding “FINANCE CHARGES for Late Payment”, “Default Rate”, or “Closed Account Rate”.
Default Rates. Your APRs also may vary if you are in default under this agreement for any of the following reasons:
- We do not receive, for any payment that is owed on this account or any other account or loan with us, at least the minimum payment due by the date and time due.
- You fail to make a payment on any loan to any of our related companies when due.
- You exceed your credit line on this account.
- You make a payment to us that is not honored by your bank.
If any of these events occurs, we may increase the APRs (including any promotional APR) on all balances (excluding overdraft advances) up to a maximum of the default rate stated in the Rates and Fees Table.
The rate listed as the current APR in the Rates and Fees Table/Table of Interest Charges: 32.24%.
Or, a variable rate of “The Prime Rate* plus up to 23.99%” (“*Estimated variable APRs above are based on the 8.25% Prime Rate on August 31, 2006.” (clearly I need to look at these things more often))
I can almost get behind the idea that they have a right to raise my rate if I don’t pay my bill. After all, they are taking a risk by extending credit to me, letting me use their money (which isn’t really their money since they are Giant National Bank and are using the money from their depositors to finance their credit card business in a race against time in the hopes that they will get paid before enough depositors come to claim their deposits…it’s sort of the macro economic equivalent of robbing Peter to pay Paul).
But 32.34% APR if my minimum payment, or even my payment in full, shows up one day late in their office? Makes me want to send Giant National Bank the page out of Webster’s that defines usury.
What I really like is bullet point number two: “You fail to make a payment on any loan to any of our related companies when due.” That means that if I have a car loan or a mortgage with Giant National Bank if my payment on that is late they have a right to jack up the rate on my credit card even if I have been paying that faithfully and on time.
This plus all the “holiday” commercials that we have been seeing since Halloween got me to thinking about consumption and reminded me of Adbusters. Every year Adbusters declares the two days following Thanksgiving in the U.S. (Friday in the U.S., Saturday internationally) “Buy Nothing Day.” According to their statistics one fifth of the world’s population consumes 80% of its resources. Seems a little out of balance, don’t you think?
Take a look at Adbusters classic :30 commercial for Buy Nothing Day or its new, geeked out cousin provided by someone outside the organization (below) while I think about this: the “AMENDMENTS TO YOUR AGREEMENT” pamphlet also says that “The following changes will apply unless you choose not to accept them.” I think this year when I get my annual mailing on this I’m going to call the toll-free number and see what happens when I choose not to accept these changes. In the mean time, I plan on doing yard work on “black Friday” instead of showing up at 4am for the “door buster sale.” I’ve got enough stuff anyway.